Amazing Aurora in Alaska, March 2014

Every year, our friend and astrophotographer extraordinaire John Chumack co-leads a tour to Alaska on how to photograph the northern lights and the night sky, and this year they hit paydirt. “Absolutely amazing aurora about 30 minutes outside Fairbanks, Alaska!!!!” John wrote via email. “I took over 450 photos of it, I watched it dance and sway from 9:30pm until 4:00am!!! It got so bright at times it turn the snow green, to red to purple too!”

Sounds incredible, and here are some great pictures to showcase what John and his friends saw. If you have an aurora trip on your bucket list, you can find out more about the Alaskan astrophotography tour here.

Aurora seen near Fairbanks, Alaska on March 21, 2014. Credit and copyright: John Chumack.
Aurora seen near Fairbanks, Alaska on March 21, 2014. Credit and copyright: John Chumack.

Aurora seen near Fairbanks, Alaska on March 21, 2014. Credit and copyright: John Chumack.
Aurora seen near Fairbanks, Alaska on March 21, 2014. Credit and copyright: John Chumack.
Aurora seen near Fairbanks, Alaska on March 21, 2014. Credit and copyright: John Chumack.
Aurora seen near Fairbanks, Alaska on March 21, 2014. Credit and copyright: John Chumack.
Aurora seen near Fairbanks, Alaska on March 21, 2014. Credit and copyright: John Chumack.
Aurora seen near Fairbanks, Alaska on March 21, 2014. Credit and copyright: John Chumack.

UPDATE: John sent us an update and a couple of additional aurora photos from subsequent nights in Alaska. He said he has done quite a bit of research over the years, and Fairbanks has the highest number of clear nights late March — when he annually hosts the aurora tour. “Also the Earth’s Magnetic Field is weaker near equinox, so even if you don’t get flares, the solar wind is enough to spark aurora displays,” John said via email. “We are on our 4th consecutive clear nights with great Aurora displays. Only a KP-2 index Level is need to see them here.”

A good enticement to check out his tour for 2015!

Aurora on March 24, 2014 near Fairbanks, Alaska. Credit and copyright: John Chumack.
Aurora on March 24, 2014 near Fairbanks, Alaska. Credit and copyright: John Chumack.
A group of attendees at John Chumack's Aurora Borealis tour watch the aurora together near Fairbanks, Alaska on March 24, 2014. Credit and copyright: John Chumack
A group of attendees at John Chumack’s Aurora Borealis tour watch the aurora together near Fairbanks, Alaska on March 24, 2014. Credit and copyright: John Chumack

Pictures of Alaska

Northern Alaska

Here are some pictures of Alaska, taken from space by a variety of Earth observation satellites. These satellites capture images of Alaska to help scientists understand the natural processes that shape our planet. But, in our case, they also make for really pretty pictures.

This is a picture of Alaska; the Brooks Range in Northern Alaska. This picture was taken by the true-color Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer on board NASA’s Terra satellite, which was launched in 1999. The Beaufort Sea is at the top of the image.

Alaska and Northwest Canada

This is an image of the point between Alaska and Northwest Canada. You can see the sea ice off the coast of Northern Alaska. This image was taken in Spring, as the northern tundra is just starting to be visible under the melting snow.

Eastern Alaska

This is a photograph of Eastern Alaska. You can see the Aleutian Islands and Kodiak Island, as well as the Yukon River. The cloud bank is hiding a plankton bloom in Bristol Bay.

This is a satellite photo of the Coast of Alaska. Perhaps the most famous feature is Prince William Sound, the site of the Exxon oil tanker spill. The lighter colors in the ocean comes from sediment coming off the ground and being carried into the ocean by currents.

Aurora Over Alaska

Of course, one of the most famous features of Alaska are the spectacular Northern Lights. This image was captured by Joshua Strang at an air base in Alaska. We see the Northern Lights when particles from the Sun’s solar wind are channeled by the Earth’s magnetic field, creating ionized particles in the upper atmosphere.

We’ve written many articles about Alaska for Universe Today. Here’s an article about the recent eruption of Alaska’s Redoubt volcano, and more information about ice loss in Alaska.

If you’d like more Alaska photos, check out Visible Earth Homepage. And here’s a link to NASA’s Earth Observatory.

We’ve also recorded an episode of Astronomy Cast all about planet Earth. Listen here, Episode 51: Earth.